Last Sunday (25 October 2020) I spent an evening helping the Homeless Leeds Support team, run by Dave Hedley, in the city centre, and talking with people who were sleeping rough. These were some of their stories and insights:
Levi: “I got caught in a spiral of short-term private lets, and failing to get anywhere with bidding for Council houses, so now I’m in my tent. We need to start looking at giving better support to young people moving into their first homes, to break these cycles.”
Adam: “I want to get back on track, but suffer with a serious back injury, so finding work is impossible. So many people I know have died, especially in winter.”
Jamie: “I was in and out of prison, but have stayed out of trouble these last years, and got a flat that I was sharing with my partner Vicky. But then I missed a phone appointment because of my anxiety, and we lost the flat. We got a tent, but someone slashed the roof and nicked the poles. Everyday is getting worse, and if I had the balls to do myself in, I’d do it.”
Wayne: “My wife and I are grandparents, and had a nice bungalow together, but my wife now has serious degenerative dementia, and we had to sell the house to pay for her nursing home. Here on the streets, I’ve been beaten up, pissed on, and worse. There’s a lot of stigma, and it seems people are becoming less caring. I’d ask people to be understanding and less judgemental.”
Paul: “I struggle with mental health, but – because I’m not on drugs anymore – I don’t get a key worker. Time goes so slow on the streets, but people should just stop and talk with us, or just give a friendly smile – that makes a big difference”.
Daz: “I was living somewhere, but it was deemed unsafe, so I had to move out. And now, because I’m a man, I’m low priority for housing, and the Council say they have no duty of care towards me. Living on the streets is awful, really hard: I’ve suffered violence and theft so many times. And it’s harder than ever: with Covid, the streets are much quieter, and no-one has cash. It can take 6 hours to get £1.”
This post is one of a series of articles about homelessness, hearing people’s real experiences of live on the streets and ‘sofa surfing’ and find out about services that are trying to help people in crisis.